Britain has through the centuries been renowned for Art Magick, from the days when the powers of the "Hyperboreans" were known to the Greeks: Michael Scott the wonderworker was received at the court of the Emperor Frederick II in Sicily: Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar, was a renowned alchemist: Alexander Seton, another alchemist, was for his wide travels and international fame called the "Cosmopolite:" the "Wizard Earl of Northumberland" graced Tudor times, as also did John Dee and Edward Kelly, the alchemist and the seer to whom was revealed the Enochian Arcana: all these and many more, down to the founders of the modern magical movements, have worked along their distinctive lines, the magick of the Grimoires, of the Qabalah, Alchemical, Enochian, and other: yet underlying all, we distinguish the mysterious forces of the land, the Pagan heart of the Isle of Albion!
In the eighteenth and the greater part of the nineteenth centuries, the continuation of the occult tradition was for the most part hedged by great secrecy. Virtually inescapable churchgoing and the insistence of the clergy of all denominations upon the orthodoxy of their members, had made it impossible for anyone to admit openly to an interest in practical magick unless he was willing and able to flout all social conventions and commitments, to make himself in fact an outlaw. The notoriety of the eighteenth century "Hellfire Clubs" had only served to confirm public opinion in this. An interest in theoretical magick however was quite a different thing. Hence there grew up in this epoch a number of quiet "antiquarian societies" and "folklore societies" which pursued their studies in peace, laying up beneath their haloes of respectability a considerable store of information on such "curiosities" as alchemical documents, medieval books, local cults and beliefs, and so on. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the climate began to change. Partly as a result of scientific progress, partly as a result of widening knowledge of other cultures and ways of life, the hold of the traditional authorities over the minds and consciences of educated men and women was weakening. A number of the antiquarian societies began to move from a theoretical to a practical interest in their lore.
From the membership of one such society the Aurum Solis was founded in 1897. The particular interests of the society had been in Alchemical, Gnostic, Medieval and Celtic traditions: they had gathered much abstruse knowledge on these matters with details of ritual techniques which they were now prepared to put into practice: moreover, they had their spiritual fulcrum, for they had developed their own distinctive constellation of "the worshipped." So as to bring the various researches of the Order into harmony on a sound philosophic basis, it was decided to adopt the fundamental framework of the Qabalah without however binding the Order either to the tangled rabbinic traditions or to the stereotyped Judaeo-Christian interpretations so often associated with it. This combination of factors resulted in the workings being caught up at once into great effectiveness and vitality.
With the outer name of the Order, Aurum Solis, they recalled not only the patient work of the medieval Alchemists but also the objective which they had sought, the transmutation to pure solar gold and all which it symbolizes. Central to the life of the Aurum Solis is the fact of Adepthood, that change in the ground of spiritual consciousness which signalizes the magician's entry into the mystical domain of the Higher Self: and it is the prime concern of the Order to bring its members to that attainment. From the first step, the first resolve, the adventure into magick is given tautness and definition by this aspiration: nor is its achievement an end to the adventure, but rather a new and more profound beginning. For it must be most plainly stated, the death into which the initiate passes is more a symbolic death, and the new birth into which the Adept arises is a veritable new birth. His now is the Sphere of the Sun, for the new heavens of his world are irradiated by a Sun beyond the sun. To this central purpose, indeed, was the Order founded, as indicated by the avowed intention of the founders, “to re-establish the Wisdom of the Mages and to proclaim anew the Secrets of the Alchemists.”
As befits an occult Order functioning in Britain, the A:.S:. has based much of its work on Celtic contacts: the ancient Fire Festivals, Imbolc, Bealteinne, Lughnasadh and Samhuinn, are ritually celebrated year by year, and a series of magical ceremonies has been conducted in or near centres of early British and Celtic potency: prehistoric sites such as “King Arthur’s Caver” in the Wye Valley, the Paviland Cave in Glamorganshire and such legendary sites as “Waylands Smithy” (actually an ancient tomb) in Berkshire: also places of later Celtic associations such as Tintagel, Glastonbury, Holyhead, Iona and Lindisfarne.
Nevertheless, the Order’s pursuit of its purpose has not been all drama, all ritual splendor, joyously though these things have been adopted as beseems the children of Light. There has been much work over the years in clarifying the essentials of the Qabalah, freeing them from doctrinal bias and stripping away the non-essentials: re-aligning Qabalistic theories, also, and other occult knowledge, with modern trends in psychology and science so as to present continually an up-to-date instrument of magick to the understanding of today. Besides the development of these great guide-lines of knowledge, the Order's experience and understanding of the activities of human and of non-human minds has been enlarged also by conducting practical investigations. Various psychic phenomena have been examined: and conclusions have been reached which have had a considerable effect in determining the Order's adoption or rejection of various ritual techniques. Always the purpose has been to ascertain what truly occurs in a given case: academic theorizing can come in afterwards, first as an aid to interpreting the facts, and then to amplify our understanding of the principles. Taking into account both the practical and the theoretical aspects of the Order's researches, such a program can never be finally completed.
The Order continued to develop its own original lines of work and study with great unity of spirit, under the leadership of George Stanton the first Warden, until the cessation of activities brought about by World War I. Afterwards, in the early Twenties and onwards, we find in the mingled old and new membership a partial divergence of purpose, not at that time a cause of any disruption, and probably not at once seen as detrimental:—on the one hand the traditionalists of the Order delved ever deeper into their chosen studies: on the other hand there was a formalist trend, fostered by the advent of members with a G.*.D:. background, together with the general "Masonic" tendency which was characteristic of the times and largely a legacy of the War. Nevertheless, at the period in question, the stimulus of these two tendencies produced a great richness in the workings, together with an additional spur to research in extending Order's learning. One example of this was the considerable work done in reviewing and extending the Order’s Hebrew knowledge. This was carried Morris'Greenberg, a Rabbideeply learned in the Talmud and in the traditional Qabala. He gave into the Order’s keeping many valued teachings, which he often rendered the more memorable by the trenchant and witty sayings with which he illustrated them. Even in the Thirties, when spending his last years in retirement at Bournemouth, this scholarly man was a wonderful Mentor to the Order.
The later Thirties were inevitably somewhat overshadowed by the highly-charged political atmosphere of the times. Following true occult tradition, the Order had ever remained aloof from politics of every description, and for long refrained from any comment on the creeds of that epoch: nevertheless, confronted with a situation in which many people saw Fascism and Communism as the major alternatives confronting mankind, the Order issued to its members the following assurance: -
"The development of the individual towards perfection, we hold to be a sacred duty: and we work for the common good, as a means towards the perfecting of every individual. To invert this ideal, and to regard the individual as existing only for the good of the race as a whole, is to stultify all higher aspiration, and its directly opposed to the purposes of Occultism.”
When war actually broke out, it became inevitable, as in 1914, to cease official Order activities for the duration. Owing to a concatenation of circumstances full activity was not resumed until 1949. Prior to that year, however, a number of the members had been working privately, both in England and on the Continent as many other magicians were doing at that time, in ceremonial works connected with dispelling the astral aftermath of war and re-creating the magical links with higher planes. Meeting in different places, working in very small groups, and frequently with the assistance of one or more non-members, they had not found it either convenient or desirable to utilise the formal temple workings of the Order and had instead drawn upon their knowledge of medieval magical methods. They had achieved some notable results and had gained some unforgettable experiences thereby. In 1949 they returned to the renewed meetings of the Order, which had been re-organized, and for several years a great effort was made to keep the whole work of the Order moving with the same zest.
It now became apparent, however, that a major crisis was approaching. In 1956 the ruling authority of the Order made a review of the entire question of magical workings, of modern and of older Western types. The following conclusions were reached:
"Initiation into an understanding of the Occult powers does not necessarily result in the ability to make magical use of those powers. In English Freemasonry (the only type of Freemasonry reviewed in this instance) a type of ritual has been developed which is designed to initiate the understanding but, by deliberate intention, not to lead into ceremonial magick. The Freemasons do not claim and do not wish to be magicians. A Masonic type of ri